CD Spectroscope

The final thing sitting on my hobby desk from this summer was Quarterly (now out of business) Maker Box #10. There were several items related to the sky and space (same thing?) and a project with the materials to make a CD Spectroscope, which can be used to analyze light.

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This is way cooler than I expected. Here are some examples…

If you’d like to make your own, Exploratorium has the instructions.

Boldport Club: Capaci-meter (#31)

This is the penultimate project from Boldport Club before they move away from the subscription model. It is called Capaci-meter and is project #31. I’m really sad to see the Club changing because I’ve enjoyed the projects a lot more than any of the other electronics kits and the PCBs are so beautiful. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.

After having issues with my Hakko FX-888D soldering iron, I finally did some troubleshooting and by using a meat thermometer I determined the tips weren’t getting hot enough. Then I found the device actually has an adjustment mode which lets it compensate. Works great now and is so much better than that cheap iron I’ve been using for other recent projects.

It’s great when the project produces a useful device like this for testing the value of capacitors.

AdaBoxes 8 & 10

More catching up on electronics stuff that was piled on my desk. Here I unboxed AdaBoxes 8 and 10. Then I assembled 10, which is a sweet device, and loaded some of the code examples. Skip ahead to 17:23 if you only want to check out the demos.

In the past I mentioned I might cancel my AdaBox subscription, which I did after box #8. On social media and in their YouTube shows Adafruit has been pretty much telling you what’s in the next box, which has been nice. I knew #9, based on their HalloWing board, didn’t interest me. Then when I realized #10 was going to be the NeoTrellis and subscriptions were still open late in the quarter I jumped in. I plan to make a game-time decision each quarter from here on out.

I Cancelled HackerBoxes

I recently mentioned I was considering cancelling my subscription to HackerBoxes. Turns out the owner of the company made that decision much easier with the way he treats customers. Box #0030 is my last one.

The HB owner came up with some crazy conspiracy theory that all of his most active customers were trying to run him out of business. He started attacking us and censored us from helping other people in the community. You can see what the owner says in this deleted subreddit thread (also on the Internet Archive in case that page gets removed).

He also jumped into the comments on one of my unboxing videos and started making a bunch of incorrect assumptions about me and attacking me. It was so outrageous I thought it was a YouTube troll and I blocked the account soon after the 2nd comment came through so other HB customers to see the garbage this person was saying. Later that night I found out it was the owner! I wish I had saved those comments.

If you’re a HB subscriber or thinking to start you can decide for yourself if it’s a company you want to support. I won’t be giving my money to someone who treats customers like this. It’s disappointing because the concept is sound, I learned a lot, and there were some fun projects. If HB embraced and appreciated their community it could be an awesome way for people to learn about electronics.

The community has moved over HardWareFlare. Discord info is there as well, which is very active.

I’ve restarted my subscription to AdaBox and I suggest you check them out. Adafruit actually cares about people. Their next box (8) will be all about building robots. Another subscription electronics service I’m enjoying is Boldport Club, which comes once a month.

Unboxing HackerBox #0030: Lightforms

Quick unboxing video for the latest HackerBox.

Official box contents from the Instructable:

  • HackerBoxes #0030 Collectable Reference Card
  • NodeMCU V3 Module with ESP8266 and 32M Flash
  • Reel of 60 WS2812B RGB LEDs 2 meters
  • 8x8x8 LED Kit with 8051-Based MCU and 512 LEDs
    • PCB
    • Reusable Plastic Parts Box
    • Two 4.7 KOhm Resistors
    • Eight 470 Ohm Resistors
    • 10 KOhm Eight Resistor Array
    • STC12C5A60S2
    • 40-Pin DIP Socket
    • Eight 74HC573 Octal Latches
    • Eight 20-Pin DIP Sockets
    • ULN2803 Transistor Array
    • 18-Pin DIP Socket
    • Two 10uF 25V Electrolytic Capacitors
    • Two 22pF Ceramics Capacitors
    • 12MHz Crystal Oscillator
    • Barrel Power Socket
    • 4-Pin Serial Header
    • Power Switch
    • Cable with USB to 5V Barrel
    • Red Hookup Wire
    • 550 LEDs
  • USB Serial Module with CH340G and Jumper Wires
  • Stranded Hookup Wire 3 meters, 22 gauge
  • Exclusive HackerBoxes Decal
  • Exclusive Dark Side LED Decal

It’s disappointing that HackerBoxes resold us a popular kit that you can get for $15-20. I’ve seen these LED cubes many times online and while they do look awesome, I never bought one because I didn’t think I’d have the patience to put one together. I guess I’ll get the chance now.

I’ll probably try to do a time-lapse of this assembly, which is going to take a long time.

AdaBox007: Spy

When Adafruit hinted that AdaBox #007 would have a spy theme I was excited. I did a time-lapse of the unboxing this time since they do their own unboxing (scheduled some time next week) which is much better than listening to me talk.

This box has more content than any other box so far.

  • Large Padlock & 9 Piece Lockpick Kit
  • Software Defined Radio USB Receiver with Antenna
  • Adafruit GEMMA M0
  • USB Cable – 6″ A/MicroB
  • AAA Battery Holder with On/Off Switch
  • 3 AAA Batteries
  • Fast Vibration Sensor Switch
  • Piezo Buzzer
  • Panel Mount 10K Potentiometer + Knob
  • Invisible Ink Pen
  • 5mm Purple UVA LED
  • IR (Infrared) Receiver Sensor
  • 5mm Super-bright IR LED
  • 0.1mm Magnet Wire
  • Digikey Digi-Keyer Puzzle
  • Digikey Web Cam Cover
  • EFF Multisticker Sheet
  • 2600 Magazine: The Hacker Quarterly
  • Hackspace Magazine
  • Boldport Club Cad Sticker

I’ve always wanted a lock pick set and the clear padlock seems like a cool way to learn. I’ll have to make some videos once I start learning how to pick locks.

Even with this box being one of the better ones, I think I’m going to cancel because I have built up quite a collection of Adafruit microcontrollers and other components. I need to start building projects that I actually use around the house instead of just tinkering and taking everything apart after I learn. I like the subscription, but they’ve left me wanting more because it really is focused on the beginner. Not saying I’m an expert by any stretch of the imagination but I have so many of the things included in most of the boxes now.

I can’t help myself and have already subscribed to a different monthly electronics kit. More on that in a few days.

HackerBox #0028: JamBox

I like it when the new HackerBox shows up on a weekend.

I always see electronics projects for making some kind of digital synthesizer to generate sounds so it seems to be a common project. It’s one I’ve never done, so I’m looking forward to experimenting with this box.

The official content list from the Instructable:

  • HackerBoxes #0028 Collectable Reference Card
  • Exclusive JamBox Printed Circuit Board
  • ESP32 DevKitC
  • CJMCU PCM5102 I2S Digital-to-Analog Module
  • Four MAX7219 8×8 LED Matrix Modules
  • Five 10K Ohm RV09 Potentiometers
  • Five Potentiometer Knobs
  • Eight Tactile Momentary Buttons
  • Four Adhesive Rubber Feet
  • 3.5mm Audio Patch Cable
  • MicroUSB Cable
  • Earbuds with Case
  • Exclusive HackerBoxes Skull Decal
  • Octocat Fan Art Decal Sheet

Unfortunately the demo code included in the guide only uses the potentiometers, buttons, and LEDs. Will need to do some tinkering to turn this into a synth.

Unboxing & Assembly of HackerBox #0027: Cypherpunk

Here’s the full list of the box contents from the Instructable.

  • HackerBoxes #0027 Collectable Reference Card
  • Black Pill STM32F103C8T6 Module
  • STLink V2 USB Programmer
  • Full-Color 2.4 inch TFT Display – 240×320 Pixels
  • 4×4 Matrix Keypad
  • 830 Point Solderless Breadboard
  • 140 Piece Wire Jumper Kit
  • 2 U2F Zero Soldering Challenge Kits
  • Large 9×15 cm Green Prototying PCB
  • Exclusive Vinyl GawkStop Spy Blockers
  • Exclusive Aluminum Magnetic Swivel Webcam Cover
  • Exclusive EFF Patch
  • Privacy Badger Decal
  • Tor Decal

I haven’t done an assembly video on a HackerBox in months. I have received some comments that they are really helpful for beginners, so I’m going to try to do one each month, which will also push me to complete the kits sooner. With all of the surface mount components this is a really good box to start with.

Quarterly Maker Box #MKR08 by Adam Savage Part 4

Progressing beyond the previous project where we assembled a model of Adam’s Cave, the final project of Quarterly Maker Box #MKR08, titled Build Your Own House/Apartment, involved building a model of our own. This was good timing because I’ve been putting together my own workshop in the basement over the last few months. Having a model would help with planning my use of the space and give me a different feel/perspective for the area.

My first step was outlining the entire workshop.

I also created a quick list of things I might want to add to the model after the structure was built.

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While the model of Adam’s Cave was in 1:48th scale I decided to build mine in 1:24th because my space is much smaller. Really glad I made this choice because it was still hard getting my big hands into some of the corners.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I subscribed to Quarterly’s Maker Box and probably wouldn’t have known it existed or even thought about subscribing if I hadn’t seen that Adam Savage was getting involved for a couple of boxes. The projects he selected were much different from what I get from my AdaBox and HackerBox subscriptions, so a nice change of pace. I had a lot of fun and am looking forward to seeing what Adam does for #MKR09.